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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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"We’ve Found You At Last"

by gloinf

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Robert Green
Location of story: 
Harrogate, Oldham, Wrexham, Cooden Beach, Eastbourne
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
24 November 2004

As my Mother died giving birth to me, and my Father had disappeared I was placed in an Orphanage at 6 months, as there was no one to care for me. I stayed in the Orphanage until I was 13 years old. Because I had a good school report the Matron, had arranged for me to deliver goods to the 14 cottages, which were in association with the Orphanage, because I behaved well and did the job well The Matron arranged for me to go to Barningham Park Mansion, where I worked in the kitchen until I was 16 years old
When the war was declared I was working as a chef in a Hotel in Harrogate, and each week sent money to ‘Uncle Bill’, who lived in Southshields,
He had been wounded in WW1 and had only 10/- a week to live on.
Whilst I was working in the Hotel a Colonel and his wife used to come and eat there, and one day the Colonel’s wife appeared in the kitchen, and apparently she asked the head chef who had cooked the cauliflower for the meal she had just eaten, the head chef referred her to me, and she asked my secret regarding the cooking of the cauliflower but I was rather impudent and told her it was a trade secret.
The hotel in Harrogate was commandeered by the RAF when war was declared, and I had to leave. I had nowhere to go and no family except Uncle Bill so I decided to go and see him. I knocked on his door and said I was out of work and could I stay with him, until I was called up.
Two days later I received my calling up papers I was aged 19, I was to go for a medical the next day, they gave me the works, and the following day I had an envelope delivered telling me to report to Earl Mill Camp in Oldham. It poured with rain incessantly as I made my way to the camp feeling nervous and depressed.
When I arrived at the camp I was told to line up, and the Camp Colonel addressed each man in turn when he reached me he said” We’ve found you at last”, which rather surprised me.
My job description was chef, and I was told to report to the cookhouse. The head chef seemed to take a shine to me, and was appreciative of my culinary skills. A short time after I had started there the head chef invited me to his office and offered to teach me French and French cooking; after one month I was promoted to the “Officers Mess” in the Army Catering Corps.
I did well and the Camp Colonel rewarded me by telling me that I was to go on a 6 week training course to Perry Bar in Derby; after 4 weeks I passed with a first class certificate. I was granted a weeks leave as I had finished the course early and had done so well.
I was stationed in Eastbourne in 1940 and met and married my wife Nan after one month’s courtship.
When I returned to camp I had a shock, because my company had moved out, and the camp had been taken over by the Canadians, and they did not know where my company had gone. They decided I should be bed rested for a week as I was suffering from exhaustion from all the travelling and difficulty in getting back to camp. This I did as the Canadians did not know what to do with me. Finally they told me to report to, Victoria in London.
This I did and was told that my company had gone to Wrexham and I was to report there and rejoin my company.
I had no money for the rail journey. And it was a long and difficult rail journey at that time.
Eventually I arrived at the camp in Wrexham. The company Corporal spoke to me and said he had informed the Colonel that I was back again, and said that the Colonel wanted to see me next day at l0 am, I asked why, and was told curtly ‘don’t know’!!
When I went before the Colonel the next day, he congratulated me on passing the course so well and before time, also my initiative in getting to Wrexham on my own without funds, and gave me another week’s leave !!
When I returned to camp again after the week of leave, I was told that there were a load of Germans at Cooden Beach, they are being sent to Canada, but you and 5 others will feed and guard them till they are sent away to Canada. They were to have a 7 course meal each day .I think they must have been very important prisoners to get a 7 course meal each day.
After I arrived at Cooden Beach, the Germans were sent away only two days later. As I was key -holder for the food larder, I asked the Sergeant what I should do with all the food, which was laid in for the Germans consumption. He said he did not know, and you can imagine how hard it was for us to decide what to do with it.!!
After that I returned to Wrexham and joined the expeditionary Forces and went to France.
Whilst working in the Officers mess preparing a meal, an anti personnel bomb exploded close to where I was, and it blinded me. This meant 6 weeks in a darkened room into which a little light was let in each day, until my sight was partially restored, but it left me visually impaired permanently. When my sight had improved sufficiently I returned to work in the Officers Mess, and remained there till the end of the war.
When the time came to be demobbed, I was sent to Guildford, where I was given a new suit, shirt, hat and shoes etc., and was returned to ‘civvy’ street. Then I joined Southdown Busses as a conductor, after that I worked for Finlays the dry-cleaners, also did odd jobs as an occupation, as I purchased a round from a friend for £50.
Then for a period of about 2 years I worked for Chez Maurice in Seaside which was a very good class restaurant, He would call me in emergencies and I would go and assist him, as needed.
The food was beautiful quality, and of course it was very expensive too.
One day a lady came in and ordered Salmon and then complained that it was not Salmon, and made a terrible scene. Chez Maurice told me to fetch a whole Salmon and serve it up to her, so I did, and he said to the woman “there you are that is Salmon, either eat all of it or leave the restaurant”. She left no more argument. !!

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